The present investigation evaluated differential encoding of printed word attributes in poor and normally developing readers. In two separate studies, poor and normal readers, at different grade levels, were presented with forcedchoice tasks which required that they pair two of three printed words on the basis of one of two word attributes. In the first study, words could be paired in accord with similarity in either their meanings or their structural (orthographic/phonological) characteristics. In the second, words could be paired in accord with orthographic or phonological similarity, but meaning was controlled. Results of the first study indicate that poor readers are no less sensitive than normal readers to the meanings of printed words and somewhat less sensitive to their structural attributes. Results of the second study indicate that poor readers are especially insensitive to the phonological attributes of printed words, consistent with phonological coding deficit theories of reading disability. © 1990.
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